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Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint Paperback – April 3, 2011
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"Byers does a wonderful job explaining that disillusionment is 'the dispersal of illusions' and can actually be a form of illumination." (Aaron Wilkinson, Books & Culture, November/December 2012)
"This is an enlightening book, which would be a good addition to any church library." (Libraries Alive!, Fall 2011)
"Andrew Byers asks, 'Can anyone justify being a cynic if Jesus was not a cynic?' Indeed, Faith Without Illusions confronts our tendency to forsake the example of Jesus and give up on the church in disappointment. Read the book and discover a better way, marked by 'hopeful realism.'" (Collin Hansen, editorial director, The Gospel Coalition, and co-author, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir)
"Cynicism has spread to outbreak proportions--particularly in my generation--and many of us too easily succumb to its sickness. Faith Without Illusions is exactly the shot-in-the-arm antidote we need to remain mercilessly realistic and yet still cling onto hope." (James Choung, author of True Story and national director of InterVarsity's Asian American Ministries)
"Andrew Byers takes a hard look at the broken, bitter and jaded in the church who are at a fork in the road. He offers a path of faith paved with hope and healing in the footsteps of the best models of Scripture. Byers is a humorous, unassuming and sympathetic guide, one worth following down the better road." (Nijay K. Gupta, School of Theology, Seattle Pacific University)
"Cynicism is the natural outcome of a culture whose idols have crashed and burned. The pop Christianity of our time is a narcotic but not an answer to the deepest yearnings of the rising generation. Andy Byers surveys this landscape with a sharp analytical mind and with sails trimmed to the biblical gospel. An important and timely book of hopeful realism." (Timothy George, founding dean, Beeson Divinity School, and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture)
"Cynical anger being replaced by prophetic anguish is, according to Andy Byers, the way of the prophet. It's also the way of Faith Without Illusions. With wisdom and grace, Byers inspires discerning Christians to move beyond cynicism for the purpose of challenging the church, instead, with love. Right now, it's where Byers's work is moving me." (Margot Starbuck, author of The Girl in the Orange Dress and Unsqueezed)
About the Author
Andrew Byers (PhD, Durham University) works as the Free Church Tutor and Teaching Fellow at Cranmer Hall, St. John's College, Durham University. He has spent twelve years in pastoral ministry, most recently serving as the Chaplain of St. Mary's College, Durham University. Andrew is the author of TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age, and Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint.
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As a pastor who has been in full-time parish ministry for not quite 25 of the past 31 years, I have read books, attended seminars, and had numerous conversations, face to face and in writing, regarding those who either become disgruntled with the Christian faith and church or have been for quite some time whether having been a part of a church or not. Cynicism has never been in short supply just ask St Paul... and Jesus.
And Andrew Byers does, in a manner of speaking, as he addresses the issue of walking the line between despair and cynicism in a new book published by InterVarsity Press in 2011, Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint.
He begins with a first person account of how "we fall into" cynicism with a grade school love story. He then goes on to state something that all of us know to be true, namely that, "cynicism often arises from painful disillusionment-when the rug gets violently jerked out from under us..." and then he turns to the focus of the book "What if we are disillusioned by the church- that one safe harbor of community on which Christians are told to rely on when all else comes crashing down? What if we become cynical toward the faith that is supposed to sustain us through all life's trials?...what if the object of our disillusionment is...the God we worship?
Focusing then on this last question, Byers takes us into a review of what he calls "pop Christianity" which he claims makes us cynical and chapters related to the common themes found in his view and discussion of pop faith: Idealism, Religiosity, Experientialism, Anti-Intellectualism, and Cultural Irrelevance. Along the way, he challenges some very common view and assumptions that are part and parcel of common and wide spreading thinking across the Church such as "just follow your heart" when he reminds us that scripture reminds us that the "heart is deceitful."
Then, as a solution, Byers offers "hopeful realism" and supports his solution with a walk through the Old and New Testaments as he draws line between cynicism and a hopeful realism based in God's grace through Christ that does not side-step questions which come from hearts of disillusionment, pain and brokenness. Along the way he reminds the reader of the passionate angst of the Psalms and the anguished cry of the prophets which are ultimately sent God ward for resolve. And he makes a case that Jesus Christ himself had every opportunity to become a cynic because of the hostility and disillusionment that he faced as he walked this earth.
I, too, have been at times, a cynic of the faith and the church. And in my journey I have had to face the truth that my cynicism was based on some of the assumptions and views presented in this book. And what I like about this book is that Byers addresses the pain and the disillusionment I too felt and understood when the rug was pulled out from under me, by my own poor and flawed attitudes and choices, that had made me a disillusioned cynic.
If you are cynical about the "popular" claims of Christianity today and have found your faith wanting, I recommend this book. If you know someone who is dealing with doubt, despair, and cynicism, I recommend this book to you to share.
Then I became greatly disillusioned and disappointed. I have been accused of thinking too much and "to just have faith"... To the point that I just wanted to isolate myself from the community.
When I am with the community, I have become a judge - some kind of faith nitpicker, who only sees what's wrong. While it is good to have discernment, it is NOT good to have a heart that is embittered and "high and mighty." It is so hard to function in the church AND ministry, having to deal with fellow believers on a regular basis.
Thank God for this book. The writer is very empathetic with the disillusioned. But instead of kindling our disillusion, he provides a way out. He brings meaning to our disillusionment and focuses on how those before us have responded to great disappointment with the church and with God.
His tips are not only Biblical and easy to understand, they are also practical. His words have greatly softened my heart from one that was so hardened by disappointment to one who will hope in God. In the end, this is HIS church, the one He has died for.
Thank you, Mr. Byers.
I highly recommend this book.